Travel marketing is nothing without a clear strategy. Unless the messages are consistent, the target markets clear and the information is relevant, the outcome will be that your marketing content is unclear and lacking in any kind of clear message or purpose. It is stating the obvious to say that such a lack of clear strategy will be inimical to the success of a hotel or chain. Any success that does arise will be despite it, not because of it.
Moreover, it will amount to a waste of resources, as much of the message will be misdirected and bring the wrong results, not to mention having the potential to confuse.
However, having a clear strategy is one thing; producing the kind of content that will prompt people to start booking hotel stays is quite another. Once again, there is a chance of failing to be relevant. For example, if a hotel is in an area with a lot going on, the marketing content may focus on various kinds of events or permanent attractions in the area. However, if the bulk of the people tending to stay in the hotel have other interests that are maybe not covered, there is a danger of underselling the establishment and its proximity to those attractions. Of course, market research may provide an insight into what it is people travel to a particular destination for, either in general or broken down by demographics; for example, the same area may be frequented by younger travellers interested in sporting and leisure activities and older people for more genteel pursuits. However, nothing will provide a clearer insight than the actual testimonies of the users themselves. So why not give them a platform?
Straight from the horse’s mouth
There is something extremely refreshing about content produced by users. If it lacks a bit of polish, that is no bad thing; indeed, better that than writing filled with jargon and cliche, which content runs the risk of doing. Moreover, it comes with clarity, honesty and authenticity. Rather than looking like marketing speak written by someone with no direct experience of the hotel facilities or local attractions in question, the content will immediately impress upon the reader that the person producing it not only knows what they are talking about, but is sharing a real experience and insight. As such, it is much more likely it will be trusted.
Choose your content carefully
That said, beware of warts-and-all commentary. Including content that contains major criticisms of a hotel, its service or even the destination as a whole is obviously counter-productive, even if the piece includes praise as well, since most readers will focus more on the negatives. Therefore, the key is to pick those items of user-generated content that are positive, without being so effusive in their praise that it makes it look like they have been paid to write it.
Give guests a platform
However, before choosing how to make use of content, it is important to establish a platform to acquire it in the first place. If a hotel or chain fails to provide this, the reality is that guests will simply go elsewhere to provide feedback. After all, that is what sites like TripAdvisor or the social media site Virtual Tourist do; they offer a chance for travellers to provide extensive feedback and reviews. There is nothing to be lost in offering guests a chance to write extensively in giving online feedback. If your hotel website does not have a facility for this, it should have. And rather than just having a standard feedback form full of tick boxes and multiple choices, allow space for people to write what they think – good or bad. Out of courtesy, offer them the option of opting out of this feedback being made public on the site. By doing this, a chain can kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, negative feedback given in detail can be used in a positive way, as it will offer pointers to how service or facilities can be improved. And the positive content can be used on the site to flag up all the good stuff.
Consider the impact
Surveys have shown that most people read reviews before booking, precisely because they trust user-generated content. However, that does not mean this is the only thing they read; many will still want to study the hotel website closely. Because of this, the inclusion of positive user-generated content on the hotel has a real prospect of both being seen and having an influence. Furthermore, chains should consider the likelihood of negative content appearing on sites like TripAdvisor is more likely when unhappy guests feel there is no other outlet for their grievances. So make sure you offer that internal avenue, be it via email, your Facebook page, smartphone or other media. By doing all this, you can harvest plenty of content to help bolster your marketing efforts.